Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrən/ or /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas, called saffron threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was probably first cultivated in or near Greece. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, probably descends from Crocus cartwrightianus, which originated in Crete; C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible precursors. The saffron crocus is a triploid that is “self-incompatible” and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual “divide-and-set” of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation. If C. sativus is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus, then it may have emerged via plant breeding, which would have selected for elongated stigmas, in late Bronze Age Crete.
Saffron’s taste and iodoform or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal, and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90% of the world production of saffron.
24 karat saffron is what you should look for while shopping for saffron. People who love saffron are usually very careful with their selection. Flavor, color and length of the saffron stigma threads are very important. With a variety of numerous saffron products available in the U.S. market it can be very hard to choose for the best saffron available out there. Cyrus Saffron is intended to help you find the best saffron using our sources to get your pure saffron directly from land to your dish.
To begin, keep in mind that saffron itself can have a shelf live for up to 3-4 years but it’s a good idea to make sure to use your saffron closer to the saffron harvesting time. Simply check your saffron expiration date so you can ensure to stay close to the saffron harvest date. The majority of our harvest comes from Chelan, WA in the United States. However, in case we have an unexpected larger saffron order, we have the capability to import saffron within 7 days from the order date.
Saffron is the king of the spice. 1 gram of saffron in US market can go anywhere from $10, $16 and $65 based on volume. Vendors offer all varieties of saffrons from actual saffron stigmas to saffron powder or saffron liquid extracts and unfortunately a variety of fake and dyed saffron.
A famous proverb writes, “I am not rich enough to buy cheap things!” Saffron is of high value and quality, and should be handled as such. You should take the same approach to saffron as you would when you buy gold, diamonds or a Rolex watch because there are many imitations available on the market.
The domesticated saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. Its progenitors are possibly the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus, which is also known as “wild saffron.” The saffron crocus probably resulted when C. cartwrightianus was subjected to extensive artificial selection by saffron growers seeking longer stigmas. C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible sources.
It is a sterile triploid form, which means that three homologous sets of chromosomes compose each specimen’s genetic complement; C. sativus bears eight chromosomal bodies per set, making for 24 in total. Being sterile, the purple flowers of C. sativus fail to produce viable seeds; reproduction hinges on human assistance: clusters of corms, underground, bulb-like, starch-storing organs, must be dug up, divided, and replanted. A corm survives for one season, producing via this vegetative division up to ten “cormlets” that can grow into new saffron plants in the next season. The compact corms are small, brown globules that can measure as large as 5 cm (2.0 in) in diameter, have a flat base, and are shrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibres; this coat is referred to as the “corm tunic”. Corms also bear vertical fibres, thin and net-like, that grow up to 5 cm above the saffron plant’s neck.